Scarlet Rivera

Scarlet Rivera

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Scarlet Rivera Review

by Lindsay Planer

With all respect to the likes of David LaFlamme, Papa John Creach. David Cross, and Jean-Luc Ponty, it is arguably Scarlet Rivera (violin) who has consistently found specific and viable places for the violin in rock. While best known for her stint with Bob Dylan circa his Desire (1975) album, Rivera would go on to accompany a literal who's who of popular music ranging from New York Doll David Johansen to the Indigo Girls and blues revivalist Keb' Mo'. She also issued two solo long players in the mid-'70s, commencing with this eponymously titled platter. Scarlet Rivera (1977) reflects the artist's classical training as well an obvious love of jazz and even the genesis of the world music scene, although the genre would not develop the moniker for several decades yet. Backing Rivera are future Joe Jackson Band percussionist Gary Burke (drums/vibes) and former Mama Lion member Ed Mikenas (bass). There are also a pair of lesser-established -- but no less crafty -- musicians in the form of Dominic Cardinale (keyboards) and Rolly Hui (woodwinds/vocals/harmonica). In addition to fusing with jazz and demonstrating her aforementioned classical prowess, cuts such as the Cardinale composition "Leftback" dabble in the area of progressive rock. The song's tricky time signatures and aggressive melody lines instantly recall Frank Zappa's "Thirteen," with Lakshminarayana Shankar [aka L. Shankar] (violin). "Wicked Witch of the East" is earthier and fuelled by Rivera's fervent, impassioned fretwork and stinging intonation. Hui's vocals ethereally drift over the bridge and atop the pungent, propelling instrumental. As the name suggests, "Cloak and Dagger" is a mysterious and funky composition allowing Rivera and Cardinale to weave some tasty call and response licks within a darkly guilded and sinister tangent. The album concludes with the moody "Ring Around the Moon" featuring a brief spoken monologue, presumably from Rivera. The tune evolves with a palpable intensity, yielding an urgency steeped in tradition. After years out of print, Scarlet Rivera was reissued in 2004 by Collectors' Choice Music, which also restored the follow-up, Scarlet Fever (1978).

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